It’s been awhile, what in the world have I been up to??? Keep reading and see!
During my first week of the 2021 field season, I had the honor of joining Lauren in Cape Cod sampling box turtles! After a grueling 17 hour drive out there, the week definitely lived up to my expectations. On Monday, the week got underway as we got to meet the group of biologists that Lauren will be working with at Camp Edwards and set up her lab space. We took some time to label tubes and getting our sampling packs ready for the next day to make us more efficient as we had a LOT of turtles to catch! 🙂
On Tuesday the fun began! The biologists already had 21 turtles with radio transmitters on them that they have been tracking for the past year. I know! They made our job EASY…well, easier for sure! We still have to find these little critters while they are bunkered down in scrub oak, avoid getting peed/pooped on and most importantly, avoid getting bit! And yes, as you could have guessed, I failed at that last part! TECA30 and I are not currently on speaking terms. At the end of the day, with the help of our incredible tracker Nicole, Lauren and I had sampled a whopping total of 8 turtles!
On Wednesday, we were joined by the one and only Jeremy and set out to do a quick training (seriously a 10 minute training) before doing more turtle tracking. I am not 100% sure if our coffee hadn’t kicked in yet, whether we didn’t get enough sleep the night before, or if the scenario we were put into was just that funny but Lauren and I could not stop laughing for HOURS after. Poor Jeremy probably still thinks we are the crazy turtle girls. When we finally got it together (did we really though?) and started tracking the remaining turtles we ended up locating 7 more but only sampled 6. Unfortunately, we were no match for the scrub oak and decided we would try again on Thursday. At the end of day 2 in the field, our running turtle total is up to 14!
On Thursday, we were joined by the third biologist Chris who, most likely, was very hesitant to join us after hearing sooo much about us crazy turtle girls. Thankfully, he powered through our weirdness and helped us track 5 additional turtles! And yes, before you ask, one of these turtles was the one from Wednesday that was tracked to the middle of a large patch of scrub oak. So if the turtle didn’t move how did we finally reach it? With shear will-power and the help of Chris’ mini machete (aka pocket knife), that’s how. So now, after 3 days of tracking, our running total is up to 19!
On Friday, we were joined again, by the incredible biologist, Nicole, to track the “last” turtle. She is so amazing that she practically walked right over to the turtle’s hiding spot without ever relying on telemetry! Once this turtle was sampled, we were on our way back to complete blood work when Lauren and Nicole spotted a box turtle crossing the road! Our goal all week had been to find a turtle without telemetry and on my last day, it finally happened! Lucky for us, this was a new turtle so we got to watch and learn from Nichole as she placed a transmitter. This was the perfect end to the most amazing week in Cape Cod. I’m sad I had to leave everyone, but Lauren is more than ready to take of all of Cape Cod’s cutest turtles this summer! Be sure to check out her blog to follow along on her incredible adventures. 🙂
After returning from Cape Cod, the work really began! This week, my priority was to complete a ton of DNA extractions on all of the cloacal-oral swabs that were collected from Turtle Team in early May. Since it was my priority, obviously I didn’t finish it!! On Monday, I began preparing a care package of all the additional supplies that Lauren will need as she continues sampling turtles this summer. On Tuesday, I entered capture data, physical exams, and blood work results for each of the box turtles sampled during the first two weeks of Turtle Team. I finally got around to doing some extractions on Wednesday, although I definitely didn’t do enough (whoops – sorry Dr. Allender).
On Tuesday and Wednesday the WEL distress signal was sent to the lab from our Kane and Lake County teams. Low on supplies and in need of some extra hands, Dr. Laura and I devised a plan on how to be of assistance. Thursday morning I drove up to Lake County to help sample 15 headstarts and deliver much needed supplies. Although Carley and Kayla were doing absolutely wonderful without me, it was an awesome chance to get back out into the field and see some adorable Blandings turtles! Fieldwork continued on Friday as Dr. Laura and I met the Kane County Blandings team for a day in our waders while checking and pulling traps. All week, Alexis and Maura were trapping so many Blandings, painteds and snappers that they simply couldn’t sample them all. However, I must have brought some bad luck and weather because out of 20+ traps, we hadn’t found a single turtle on that cold and misty day. That is, until Dr. Laura showed up. She changed our luck right around because in the last trap were two painted turtles!
While all of this was going on, I was also helping take care of all the critters we have at the lab which is no easy feat. Hence why this blog post is called “absolute chaos” because that’s what these last two weeks have felt like! But I wouldn’t have it any other way!! 🙂 Please enjoy all of these photos from our photogenic reptiles!